Qatar launches largest ever annual flu vaccination drive
October 19 2020 11:56 PM
Officials at the press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed
Officials at the press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed

Qatar has launched the annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign targeting a sizeable number of population. The vaccine will be available for free for citizens and residents from Tuesday.
“We have a stock of about 500,000 doses of vaccine this year against 200,000 last year. This year it is all the more important to take the flu shot due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation,” said Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
The flu vaccine is available at 27 PHCC health centres, HMC outpatient clinics and designated private and semi-private clinics and hospitals across Qatar, in addition to the clinics that pertain to Qatar Armed Forces, and petroleum companies. People can avail the facility at more than 70 healthcare facilities including over 40 private clinics and hospitals as well and semi-governmental healthcare facilities. The flu vaccine will also be given to patients who receive home health care.
Dr al-Khal was speaking at a press conference yesterday at the launch of the vaccination campaign along with Dr Hamad al-Romaihi, manager, Health Protection and Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) , Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of Vaccination Unit, Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control Department at MoPH and Dr Khalid Hamid Elawad, manager, Health Protection, Preventive Health Directorate at Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC).
“While flu and Covid-19 are two different viruses, it is important to ensure you are protected against the seasonal flu this year. Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of Covid-19. The flu vaccine may not protect you against Covid-19, but it will reduce your risk of developing the flu and flu-related complications, and reduce the possibility of getting infected with both the flu and Covid-19 viruses at the same time. It also helps not to get confused with Covid-19 symptoms,” explained Dr al-Khal.
The campaign is a joint initiative of MoPH, PHCC and HMC. “The campaign runs until February. But it is important that people get the flu shot at the earliest possible as the flu situation can be more serious in the months of December and January. Therefore it is advisable to take the flu shot at the earliest,” continued al-Khal.
“The World Health Organisation has urged global widespread flu vaccinations this year, amid concerns the same people who are most vulnerable to severe symptoms from Covid-19, such as those aged over 50 and those with chronic conditions regardless of their age are also at greatest risk from the flu and its complications. We also urge children aged between six months and five years of age and pregnant women to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu. The flu can be particularly severe in pregnancy and the vaccine is highly safe and strongly recommended for pregnant women,” Dr al-Khal added.
According to Dr al-Romaihi, the ministry has built a strong partnership with private healthcare providers to ensure easy access to the vaccine and increase levels of immunisation against the flu in the community.
“Anyone can avail the vaccination facility at the PHCC health centres as well as at the selected semi-government and private healthcare facilities. Moreover all the measures are in place at all the health centres for safely administering the flu shot,” said Dr Elawad.
“When you are going to get flu vaccine, be sure to practise everyday preventive actions. This includes wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping appropriate distance. People can either walk into their designated health centres or seek an appointment. We encourage people to go for vaccination early as it takes around two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection against flu," he added.

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People can call 107 to book an appointment to take the flu vaccine, advised Dr Abdullatif al-Khal. The flu vaccine can also be taken during visits for other appointments at the Primary Health Care Centres or the nearest health facility during the non-peak hours to avoid rush, he said.
He told Qatar TV yesterday through a telephone interview that the symptoms of the seasonal flu could include body temperature of 40C, body, joints, bones and muscle pain, cough, inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, and headache.
"The seasonal flu could also lead to severe complications in some people, depending on their age and health conditions and require hospitalisation, ICU admission and even result in death. The World Health Organisation reports around 650,000 cases of flu deaths a year," Dr al-Khal added.



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